Game Of Thrones’ record-breaking 8.9 million-viewer season finale notwithstanding, HBO has found itself in a serious and unusual situation when it comes to original drama content moving forward. As The Hollywood Reporter published yesterday, HBO’s new president of programming Casey Bloys will have many questions about his vision for HBO content to answer for at the Television Critics Association Awards on August 6. Bloys has already made his mark on the network by pulling the plug on Vinyl, a $100 million ratings flop greenlit by his predecessor, Michael Lombardo, and by bringing The Leftovers, a critical hit that has received mediocre ratings, to a close with a third and final season. There is no doubt that Game Of Thrones currently is and has been the flagship series of HBO for years, but the popular fantasy show, which first aired in 2011, stands as the only recent HBO drama ratings success apart from True Detective, which effectively ended itself with negative reactions by critics and fans alike to the convoluted and circuitous nature of the series’ second season.
HBO’s new head of content, Casey Bloys, has his roots in comedies and late night. How his prior industry experience will translate to development of HBO’s hardboiled and often violent dramas is yet to be seen. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bloys has had a direct role in the development of HBO comedies like Veep, Silicon Valley, Girls, and Ballers. Seeking to dispel negative speculation, Silicon Valley co-showrunner Alex Berg is confident Bloys’ development talents will carry over well to dramas, stating: “I have to assume his methodology in comedy will apply to drama, which is that he’s not a guy who comes in and tries to tell you how it is. It’s about intelligence, and I believe the same sort of thinking and aiming before firing that Casey does will continue in the drama world, and they’ll come to appreciate his insights in the way that Lord knows we have.”
Bloys, long considered a peacemaker and good guy in a cutthroat profession, has his fair share of real-world drama to deal with. His HBO predecessor Michael Lombardo signed True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto to an overall deal through 2018. Though a third season of True Detective is reportedly in the works, it is unclear what Pizzolatto’s relationship with Bloys will be, considering the showrunner is so close with Bloys’ predecessor, Lombardo. Bloys is also taking the credit, or blame, for cancelling Vinyl after a single season. While there’s no arguing the show’s dreadful underperformance, the network spent $100 million in talent and production costs for the show, and it may well have been worth a try at salvaging their investment with a second season. It’s understandable that an incoming programming executive will want to make their own mark on the network schedule as quickly as possible, but the move to cancel Vinyl may have, at least temporarily, soured relations between the network and the showrunner/creator of the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire Terence Winter.
Bloys must hope that HBO, still the destination of choice for series creators and actors/actresses alike, will retain its air of supremacy above its competition, which is now stronger than ever. Netflix has been pumping out quality content for years now, and Starz’s recent move to Sunday night brings the network in direct competition with HBO. All of HBO’s competitors have hit dramas, and while Game Of Thrones is still on top of the premium TV world, it will be delayed for 2017 and will end with season 8.
HBO’s The Night Of, an eight episode miniseries drama, has received rave reviews from critics. But the solid ratings from the show’s premiere were down this past Sunday, when the series’ third episode aired, and are nowhere near that of Game Of Thrones or True Detective. It may seem as if Bloys may be betting the future of HBO on comedies, like Vice Principals, which he had a major role in developing. However, while the 30-minute comedies are profitable and draw decent ratings, it is the drama that created HBO we all know and love with The Sopranos, and dramas like The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, and Game Of Thrones that have earned HBO its prestigious place among networks, and it is dramas that will keep it there.